Authorities in Shanghai moved on Tuesday to play down fears over drinking water safety after it admitted that thousands more pig carcasses have been fished from a local river near a water pumping station.
The latest figures from city hall put the number of carcases at 5,916, twice the number reported by official media on Monday.
Officials have blamed the flood of dead pigs on lax agricultural management at pig farms near Jiaxing city in the neighboring province of Zhejiang.
"Following the incident with the floating pigs, the Shanghai municipal government is paying close attention to improving the situation on the Huangpu River upstream [from Shanghai]," the government said in a statement via its news website Eastday.com.
In spite of official assurances, local people said they were switching to bottled water.
Employees who answered the phone at supermarkets across Shanghai's Pudong and Minhang districts on Tuesday all said that sales of bottled water had risen sharply in recent days.
"Yes, that's right," said an employee who answered the phone at one of the stores.
"But everything is normal," she added. "We have ordered in extra supplies, so we should be able to meet demand."
A Minhang resident surnamed Wang said many people had been frightened to see large numbers of fly-blown pig carcasses, some of which were in an advanced state of decay, being hauled out of the river less than 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from one of the pumping stations for the city's drinking water.
She said she had already brought in large amounts of bottled water for drinking.
"Of course it's frightening," Wang said. "We are basically only drinking from those large containers of spring water now, because of pollution in the tap water."
"For now, we'll only use tap water for bathing and washing things," she said.
Zhejiang-based Internet activist Wu Bin, known by his online nickname Xiucai Jianghu, said the attempt by one official to allay public fears by saying the pigs had died from the cold were typical of the lack of transparency in the current political system.
"This is how the relevant departments in China behave," Wu said. "As soon as some negative news emerges, their first reaction is to say that there isn't a problem, or that it won't affect anything, and to pass the buck."
"After that, they start to find excuses," he said. "It doesn't matter how extraordinary or ridiculous they sound, or whether or not people believe them."
Credibility at risk
Netizens continued to ridicule official pronouncements in the form of spoof posters and political cartoons and on social media.